One of the places where periods are at their most awkward is school. I was there, I had embarrassing moments, I know. Trust me--I know.
How do I take my tampons/pads/panty liners to the bathroom?
In high school, this is a lot easier because you can carry bags and purses with you wherever you go. In middle school, they ask that you keep all that stuff in your locker. In seventh grade, I went to a school where they actualy supplied us with pads and tampons in the bathroom, for free. I was so grateful I didn't have to carry my pads from my bag to the bathroom, in full view for anyone to see, but it was still a race to the bathroom to get the pad out and into the stall before anyone saw. I've done everything from hiding the products in my pockets, shirtsleeves, and waistbands, but you know what?...Carry it! Carry that pad or tampon in your hand, and carry it casually. Why not? You can help the subject of periods become less awkward just by doing this. It'll open up conversation. You might get jeers, but what in school doesn't do that for you? College is better--no one cares if you're on your period.
On a side note, if you see a girl who drops her bag and you see her tampons or pads fall out, she is probably embarrassed. Most people hide them because they feel weird about it. Friend or not, help her pick them up--even ask if you can borrow one, then tell her you'll return the favor. Make it less weird!! (You can do it.)
What if my period makes a surprise appearance during class?
This has happened to me. It sucked. Eighth grade: my teacher wouldn't let me go to the bathroom, and I was too much of a wuss to speak up and say, "Hey! Either I go or bleed everywhere!" And too much of a wuss to just walk out. So. I bled. It wasn't pretty. To avoid this, keep a calender and mark down when your period starts and stops every month so that you have some way of seeing it come. Mine are so irregular, if I did that, it wouldn't matter. Fortunately, my body gives me clues a few days in advance so I can prepare. Either way, when you see it coming, wear a pad or panty liner depending on how heavy your flow is at the start.
Can I get out of gym for this?
Maybe. Truly, it depends on how cool your gym teacher is and how comfortable you are with telling them your reasoning. They might just tell you to suck it up or take a midol and get running. OR they might let you sit out or see the nurse. If you have terrible symptoms (and aren't just using your period as an excuse), see your doctor and ask for a note--teachers can't argue with a note from the doctor. *wink face* (They say excercise is supposed to help relieve symptoms--I tried that once and threw up everywhere.)
Must I go to the nurse for Midol?
At my school, we weren't allowed to carry things like Midol or ibuprophen on us--we had to see the nurse for that. I do not want to condon breaking the rules, but...we all carried our own anyway. I almost got caught once, and I was scared to death that I'd be suspended over a few tablets of ibu. There's nothing wrong with going to the nurse (she gave my friend a heat pad, some meds, and a cot for a nice nap), but ours was only available on certain days, and my period didn't care if her schedule was the same as the nurse's.
What if all I want to do is cry because my friends, teachers, and foes are really getting under my skin, and my cramps are killing me, and I feel like my uterus might fall out, but...but...I'm at school?
If you don't care about crying in front of other people, then just do it. I, though, hate it because once I start...I can't stop for a while. You can do the following: Go to the bathroom, and cry in the stall. I was always afraid to do this because I was worried that if I took too long, people would think I was pooping. And girls don't poop. You can also go see the nurse or guidance coucilor--that's what they're there for. If it's in between class that you're about to have a breakdown, pull a trusted friend aside and let her (or him) work her (or his) magic on you. Good friends almost always know how to say the right thing.
Can't I just stay home?
No. At least not for every day of your period. I admit, I stayed home a few times because my cramps were sickeningly awful. That requires parents--especially a mom who gets similar symptoms and knows how you feel--who will allow you to stay home, and who will make you hot tea and go out to bring you a candy bar.
My final piece of advice is an oldie, but a goodie. You've heard this one since before you even knew what a period was. Ready? Sharing is caring! Yes. It's true. Carry extra pads and tampons in your bag or store them in your locker. Periods can surprise us, and what an awesome friend you will be if you can cover a friend in need. Plus, you'd totally want someone to do the same for you.